Nigel Farage would axe 'much of' race discrimination law

Media caption,
Nigel Farage: "We, as a party, are colour-blind"

UKIP would scrap much of the legislation designed to prevent racial discrimination in work, party leader Nigel Farage has said.

He was speaking in a Channel 4 documentary to be shown next week.

Downing Street said his comments were "deeply concerning", while Labour branded them "shocking".

Mr Farage told the BBC his remarks, recorded last autumn, had been "wilfully misinterpreted", saying he was talking about nationality not race.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today Programme he said he was making the point that employers should be able to discriminate in favour of British workers.

"I didn't mention race at all. There was no part of that interview which I ever said it at all.

"What I said was that I do believe there should be a presumption for British employers in favour of them employing British people as opposed to somebody from Poland. That is exactly what I said," he added.

Media caption,
Sadiq Khan: "Nigel Farage has shown breathtaking ignorance"

The Channel 4 programme makers say they have not misrepresented Mr Farage's views.

"He was asked a direct question on whether there would be a law against discrimination on the grounds of race or colour and he replied no," they said.

BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said Mr Farage was "backing away" from what were perhaps the "most contentious" remarks in the documentary, aware of the "fury" they had caused.

"In that documentary he was talking about scrapping equalities legislation, now he's talking about reframing employment legislation; they are two entirely different things," he said.


Mr Farage's original comments came during an interview with the former head of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips, for a Channel 4 documentary called Things We Won't Say About Race That Are True.

He said that while concern over preventing racial discrimination in employment "would probably have been valid" 40 years ago, it is not today.

"If I talked to my children... about the question of race, they wouldn't know what I was talking about," he was reported to say.

He also said he would get rid of "much of" existing legislation.

Analysis, BBC political correspondent Robin Brant

Nigel Farage the libertarian is back. Or at least that is one way of reading it. Race discrimination laws are no longer needed he says. It is a state intervention that time has made redundant.

The problem, as he sees it, is a form of national discrimination; forced upon the UK by Brussels.

As the UK economy recovers, UKIP believes Britons are only partly benefitting. From Clacton to Castle Point to Cleethorpes - key areas for Nigel Farage's party in the general election - UKIP thinks the fall in unemployment has seen jobs go to Europeans over, or as well as, Brits.

"British jobs for British workers" (as former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown once said) is the answer, according to the UKIP leader.

Do not forget that the current Labour leader, Ed Miliband, wants to change things that he thinks are making the labour market unfair for British workers, by stopping firms recruiting solely from abroad.

And when asked if he would retain a ban on discrimination on the grounds of race or colour, he said: "No... because we take the view, we are colour-blind. We as a party are colour-blind."

Criticising recruitment laws, he said: "I think the employer should be much freer to make decisions on who she or he employs.

"I think the situation that we now have, where an employer is not allowed to choose between a British-born person and somebody from Poland, is a ludicrous state of affairs.

"I would argue that the law does need changing, and that if an employer wishes to choose, or you can use the word 'discriminate' if you want to, but wishes to choose to employ a British-born person, they should be allowed to do so."

What are the race discrimination laws?

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Trevor Phillips chaired the Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • The 1965 Race Relations Act was the first legislation in the UK to outlaw racial discrimination in public places
  • It forbid discrimination on the "grounds of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins" in public places and covered both British residents and overseas visitors
  • The law was tightened up in 1968 when racial discrimination was extended to include employment and housing
  • It was further extended in 1976 to identify direct and indirect discrimination and establish the Commission for Racial Equality
  • The Equality Act 2010, begun under Labour and introduced by the coalition, simplified and strengthened the law
  • It makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against employees because of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
  • There are four main types of racial discrimination: direct, indirect, victimisation and harassment
  • Positive action is only allowed if a particular racial group suffers a disadvantage, is disproportionately under represented or has needs that are different from those of other racial groups in the workforce
  • Employers can only take positive action if it is a proportionate way of tackling the under representation of a particular racial group, without discriminating against others
  • Positive discrimination, which can be regarded as preferential treatment of member of a minority group, is different, and is illegal in Great Britain.

Asked about his remarks on Today, Mr Farage said: "My comments have been wilfully misinterpreted. I have made no comments about the Race Relations Act at all.

"I have made comments in favour of British people getting jobs over and above those from southern eastern Europe."

The UKIP leader said he was speaking up for Britain's unemployed youth "both black and white", saying the young black community had suffered the biggest rise in unemployment as a result of immigration.

He said Gordon Brown, as Labour prime minister, spoke of British jobs for British workers, adding: "Well I'm saying it and really meaning it."

The prime minister, David Cameron, condemned Mr Farage's calls to scrap equalities legislation as "completely wrong and frankly pretty appalling".

He said the laws were there to protect people from being discriminated against on the basis of the colour of their skin.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said the UKIP leader's comments were "wrong, divisive and dangerous", and accused him of "stoking up division".

The party's justice spokesman Sadiq Khan accused Mr Farage of "breathtaking ignorance" and told the BBC it was troubling to hear a mainstream politician make such comments.

Media caption,
Nigel Farage: "I did not mention race at all in that interview"

During his regular LBC radio phone-in, Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he "strongly disagreed" with Mr Farage, who he said was "irresponsible" to conflate issues with employment legislation to problems like violent extremism and Sharia law.

And Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey accused the UKIP leader of "dangerous crude dog whistle politics".

There were 3,064 racial discrimination in the workplace cases lodged in 2013-14, down from 4,818 in the previous year.

The sharp fall came in the same year the government introduced fees to begin proceedings at an Employment Tribunal, to reduce their numbers.